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Is a bully ever satisfied?

What are the delays in the performance of our stipulations of which the Bey of Tunis, & Eaton complain? I thought we had not only complied with the treaty, but were doing considerably more … I know that nothing will stop the eternal increase of demand from these pirates but the presence of an armed force, and it will be more economical & more honorable to use the same means at once for suppressing their insolencies.
To James Madison, August 28, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders call bullies’ bluffs.
Madison was Secretary State, Eaton was American Consul in North Africa, and the Bey of Tunis was one of the provisional rulers of the Barbary States on the North African coast. The predatory actions of the Barbary States, capturing foreign ships on the Mediterranean Sea for ransom, had gone on for decades. Jefferson had been vexed by their behavior since his time as Ambassador to France 15 years earlier.

Jefferson thought the U.S. had gone above and beyond their obligations to Tunis, and he was clearly exasperated. The pirates were bullies and would never be satisfied. The only answer to their increasing demands was a strong naval presence in the Mediterranean. It would cost less and be more honorable than continuing to pay bribes to “protect” American shipping.

No bullies and no bluffs with Thomas Jefferson and your audience.
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How long should you obligate yourself to another?

It has therefore been the invariable policy of this country since the date of its earliest treaties to enter into none which shall not be limited to short terms, and now look forward with desire to the moment when we shall be free from compact with every nation, and have a right to govern ourselves with every one according to the principles of justice, and of a friendship proportioned to what we experience from them.
To Oliver Ellsworth, et al, March 18, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
National leaders do well to avoid long obligations to other countries.
The recipients of this letter were to negotiate new naval treaty terms with France. Jefferson cited previously policy that limited treaties to 12 years. He didn’t specify a length here but made it known he was relying on that precedent.

His purposes were clear:
1. Elsewhere in this letter, he wrote about avoiding the “complicated communications” (i.e. treaty obligations) of European nations.
2. Justice, not politics or intrigue or treaty terms, was to govern our relationships with other nations.
3. Eventually freed from all treaties, America would be as friendly to other nations, as they were friendly to us.

Mr. Jefferson will bring a lifetime of diplomatic experience to your audience.
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Thanks for the gift, but I MUST pay for it.

As a tribute of respect to your merits as a Friend of the People, & a promoter of the useful arts, I beg your acceptance of a Patent Saddle …
Stephen Burrowes to Thomas Jefferson, March 2, 1801

I recieved in due time your favor of Mar. 2. and the saddle also is come safely to hand. I am well pleased with it, and take it willingly, but on the express condition that you permit me to pay for it. I have ever laid it down as an unalterable law to myself to accept of no present while I am in a public office …
Response to Stephen Burrowes, March 9, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Conscientious leaders are careful to avoid all compromising situations.
Jefferson the accomplished horseman and daily rider would have been delighted with the gift of a new saddle. Jefferson the public servant could not accept it or any other gift. He kept the saddle but instructed Burrowes to call on his agent and receive payment for it.

There is no other correspondence between these men. I couldn’t find any information on Burrowes, or if something special characterized the saddle. His references to Jefferson as “a promoter of the useful arts” and to a “Patent Saddle” suggest an improvement in the design. We don’t know whether the saddle was to be a gift only, or if Burrowes had additional motives.

Jefferson had three choices:
1. Accept the gift and any implied obligation that came with it,
2. Return the gift, which would have appeared rude, or
3. Accept the gift but insist on paying for it, wiping out any obligation.
He wisely chose the third option.

What thoughts on ethics might Mr. Jefferson have for your audience? Find out!
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Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Morality, Politics Tagged , , , , , , |

Let my people go!

Whereas David Brown … [on June 1, 1799] … was convicted of certain misdemeanors, in writing, uttering and publishing certain false, scandalous, malicious and seditious writings against the Government … was adjudged to pay a fine of four hundred dollars … suffer eighteen months imprisonment … And whereas the said David Brown hath suffered the said term of imprisonment, and it appears that from poverty he is unable to pay the … [fine]. Now Therefore be it known, That I Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States of America … do pardon … the said David Brown …
Pardon for David Brown, March 12, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Justice-minded leaders work to correct wrong-doing.
David Brown had run afoul of President Adam’s Sedition Laws. He was fined and imprisoned for criticizing the government. Brown served his term but was still in jail because he couldn’t pay his fine.
A new President in office just eight days, who fiercely disagreed with Adam’s Sedition Laws as unconstitutional, acted quickly to right the wrong and pardoned David Brown.

Your audience will enjoy meeting the real Thomas Jefferson!
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Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Debt, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , |

When do you set graciousness aside?

had it [the election of 1800] terminated in the elevation of mr Burr [to the Presidency] … it would have been agreeable to the constitution. no man would more chearfully have submitted than myself … the administration would have been republican, and the chair of the Senate permitting me to be at home 8. months in the year, would on that account have been much more consonant to my real satisfaction. but in the event of an usurpation [Burr’s scheming] I was decidedly with those who were determined not to permit it. because that precedent once set, would be artificially reproduced, & end soon in a dictator.
To Thomas McKean, March 9, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Gracious leaders can’t always rollover.
Through an oversight, both Jefferson and Aaron Burr, intending to be President and Vice-President following the election of 1800, were tied for the top job in electoral college. It took more than 30 votes in the House of Representatives before Jefferson finally prevailed.
If Burr had won fairly, Jefferson said he would have been happy. The Constitution would have been preserved, the government would be republican (small r), and he could continue to enjoy his very part-time job as Vice President, presiding over the Senate.
Burr had less noble intentions though, hoping to gain the Presidency without having earned it. Thus, Jefferson joined forces against Burr, lest the Presidency descend into a dictatorship.
Jefferson chose the New York Burr to balance his political ticket. That backfired, and Burr’s Vice-Presidency last only four years.

It will be a gracious Thomas Jefferson who addresses your audience.
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Leave a comment Posted in Personalities of others, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , |

I respect you even though you disrespected me.

Th: Jefferson presents his respects to mr Adams and incloses him a letter which came to his hands last night; on reading what is written within the cover, he concluded it to be a private letter, and without opening a single paper within it he folded it up & now has the honor to inclose it to mr Adams, with the homage of his high consideration & respect.
To John Adams, March 8, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Generosity of spirit is a hallmark of a good leader.
In the four days since becoming President, Jefferson had learned of the many Federalists appointed to government positions and courts by John Adams just days before he left office. It was a deliberate and mean-spirited attempt by Adams to pack Jefferson’s administration with hostile employees. Those positions should have been Jefferson’s to fill.

Yet, three days after inauguration, a letter meant for Adams was delivered to the new President. We do not know its contents. Jefferson didn’t take the opportunity for a little payback. He simply forwarded the letter unopened, with this respectful note, curiously written in the 3rd person.

Mr. Jefferson promises the same generosity of spirit to your audience.
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I admit it. I was wrong.

The inclosed copy of a letter to mr Lincoln will so fully explain it’s own object, that I need say nothing in that way. I communicate it to particular friends because I wish to stand with them on the ground of truth, neither better nor worse than that makes me. you will percieve that I plead guilty to one of their charges, that when young & single I offered love to a handsome lady. I acknolege it’s incorrectness; it is the only one, founded in truth among all their allegations against me.
To Robert Smith, July 1, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders do well to come clean.
Jefferson had been reelected to his second term as President. The opposition Federalist Party was beaten back even more in 1804. Federalist fury might have prompted the publishing of an unsigned attack on Jefferson in a Boston newspaper. It accused Jefferson on many fronts, including allegations raised by journalist James Callendar several years before. Those charges claimed the President had a sexual relationship with a slave, Sally Hemings, and children from that union.

Jefferson made no public response to the accusations, as was his custom. He did address them in private correspondence to trusted friends, as was also his custom. In this revelatory letter to his Navy Secretary, Jefferson dismissed all other charges of inappropriate personal behavior by admitting to the one area where he was guilty. In 1768, when he was 25 and single, he made an improper advance to Mrs. John Walker, the wife of a friend and neighbor. She rebuffed him. The matter remained private for nearly 30 years, when the Walkers released a highly exaggerated account.

Jefferson never addressed the Sally Hemings allegations directly. Indirectly, and privately, he denied them on several occasions. This is the best known example. He admitted he was wrong in his behavior toward Mrs. Walker and said that was ” the only one, founded in truth among all their allegations against me.”

The “inclosed copy of a letter to mr lincoln,” which Jefferson referenced, might have brought more clarity. That letter has never been found.

Mr. Jefferson pledges to address any questions your audience might ask.
No holds barred.
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1 Comment Posted in Morality, Sally Hemings, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

Will someone help me, PLEASE?

Stoddart also accomodated me by staying till I could provide a successor. this I find next to impossible. R.R.L. [Robert Livingston] first refused. then Genl. Smith refused. next Langdon. I am now returning on Genl. Smith, but with little confidence of success. if he will undertake 6. months or even 12. months hence, I will appoint Lear in the mean time. he promised, if Langdon would take it for 6. months, he would in that time so dispose of his business as to come in. this makes me hope he may now accept in that way
To James Madison, March 12, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even Presidents can have trouble finding help!
Jefferson had been President just eight days and was having difficulty finding someone to serve as Secretary of the Navy. Benjamin Stoddert had filled that role for President Adams and was willing to stay until a replacement could be found.

Three people had already turned him down. Perhaps there was no number four, as he was going back to “Genl. Smith,” a political ally from Maryland. Smith did serve for several months and was succeeded by his brother Robert, who held the post through the remainder of Jefferson’s Presidency.

Cutbacks in the Navy budget made the head job less than desirable. Jefferson biographer Dumas Malone wrote, in Jefferson the President, First Term, page 59, “Jefferson had been in office more than four months before he acquired a secretary of the navy. He said privately with grim humor that he would probably have to advertise for one.”

The next post will feature a significant admission to his Navy Secretary Morris in 1805, relating to allegations Jefferson had a sexual relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings.

Your choice of Mr. Jefferson will be of great benefit to your audience!
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Leave a comment Posted in Military / Militia Tagged , , , , , , |

They look good, but are they of good character?

Two persons of the name of Millar have offered themselves to me as overseers at farms which I have in Bedford … they say they are from the neighborhood of Fauquier C. H. [Court House] & have been brought up there. but they are provided with no recommendations. their appearance bespeaks labor and industry, and their conversation intelligence. I have agreed with them … [except] … if on enquiry I find their characters amiss. they tell me they are known to you; and this makes me take the liberty of this letter to request of you such information about them as you possess yourself or can get … the inconvenience of employing men whose characters may be bad … will I hope apologise for the trouble I propose to you, with an assurance of my great esteem and respect.
To Thaddeus Norris, September 17, 1815

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Careful leaders hire help carefully.
The 72-year-old retired former President needed overseers for his Poplar Forest plantations, 70 miles west of Monticello. He visited there just several times a year. That land produced his only cash crops, wheat and tobacco, and he was seriously in need of cash. He wanted managers who could work and produce without close supervision.

Two men applied. Both seemed qualified in the way they looked and spoke, but offered no references, only where they’d grown up. He agreed to hire them, provided his own investigation verified good character.

He then wrote to an acquaintance in Fauquier, asking what he knew or could find out about the men. He apologized for the effort he asked, but said the consequence of not asking could be worse.

The men must have checked out. A footnote in the source for this letter, accessible through the link above, reported Jefferson hired one of the men for two years, the other for five.

 Mr. Jefferson invites you to check out his references
before he addresses your audience.
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Who exactly is in charge here? Part 11 H (OR I love the pleasure and will take the pain.)

 [This is the 18th & final post in a series abstracted from Jefferson’s famous “My Head and My Heart” dialogue written to Maria Cosway. This is the end of Heart’s final reply.]

Heart: We are not immortal ourselves, my friend; how can we expect our enjoyments to be so? We have no rose without its thorn; no pleasure without alloy … True, this condition [Maria’s absence] is pressing cruelly on me at this moment. I feel more fit for death than life. But when I look back on the pleasures … they were worth the price I am paying … Hope is sweeter than despair ..

Know then, my friend (Head), that I have taken these good people into my bosom … that I love them, & will continue to love them through life: that if fortune should dispose them on one side the globe, & me on the other, my affections shall pervade its whole mass to reach them. Knowing then my determination, attempt not to disturb it …”
To Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Faithful leaders know “hope is sweeter than despair.”
Jefferson acknowledged that life brings both pleasure and pain, sometimes arising from the same event. If he enjoyed happiness, he was prepared to accept any sadness that might follow. It was part of life.

He concluded his internal dialogue by affirming undying love for his friends, even though he was suffering in their absence. No matter how far away they were, his affections would reach them. He instructed his Head not to bother him about it any longer.

With the Head & Heart dialogue over, he addressed Maria Cosway directly, promising shorter letters but inviting longer ones from her. Even if she wrote one “as long as the bible,” it would be “short to me.” He ended with this personal assessment, “As to myself my health is good, except my wrist which mends slowly, & my mind which mends not at all, but broods constantly over your departure.”

Jefferson and Cosway saw one another the following year, but the infatuation of their first meeting had faded. They corresponded throughout their lives. Cosway died in 1838, at the age of 78, a dozen years after Jefferson’s death.

Thomas Jefferson will bring pleasure and no pain to your audience!
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2 Comments Posted in Grief & loss, Human nature Tagged , , , , , , , , |